Growing number of women killed in domestic violence


Violence against women is on the rise in Serbia, according to data from the Safe House Belgrade, while the Autonomous Women's Center says that almost every third perpetrator repeats the act whose direct or indirect victims in a number of cases are children.

In the period from January to June, 14 women were killed in domestic violence, which is five more than in the same period last year, Vesna Stanojević coordinator of the Safe House said to “Vesti”.

According to her, the number of calls from those who want to report violence has increased compared to the same period last year, but not by a significant percentage.

- During the state of emergency, introduced due to the coronavirus pandemic, the number of cases of violence reported via telephone was three to four percent higher, so we can say that the violent behavior is somewhere within the same frameworks as last year - says the Safe House coordinator.

In 2019, the police registered 28,214 cases of domestic violence, but also made risk assessments and issued an order for emergency measures in 70.6 percent of the cases, according to the data of the Autonomous Women's Center.

- Eviction orders were imposed in 45% of the cases, with both emergency measures also being present in a similar percentage: the prohibition of approach to the victim and accessing the household. Prosecutors’ Offices proposed for police emergency measures to be extended to 30 days in 97.3 percent of these cases, which the courts most often adopted. The violence was repeated by 6,002 perpetrators, or as the Autonomous Women’s Center points out, almost every third perpetrator under emergency measures, which were violated by 1,809 of them.

- Men are perpetrators in 85.3 percent of the cases, and women are victims in 74 percent of them, while five percent of the emergency measures included the protection of children. Children are both witnesses and victims of domestic violence, Jelena Hrnjak from the nongovernmental organization Atina points out for “Vesti”, emphasizing that a child who witnesses brutal violence suffers the consequences and should also be treated as a victim. According to her, the whole family suffers torture, and the violence is not necessarily physical, but can also be psychological.

- Violence is repeated because the adopted measures are not rigorous enough, in the sense that perpetrators do not take them seriously. It happens that they commit suicide immediately after the violence so that they do not fall into the hands of authorities, as they simply cannot bear to have someone ‘above’ them. During the court proceedings, perpetrators often do not understand that they have hurt someone - she says. Looking into the psychological profile of these persons, she explains that they have the ultimate need to rule others and control them, and given that the adopted measures prevent them from doing so they look at ways to bypass them.

- Institutions are the ones that should consistently respect and apply all measures taken to prevent violence - concluded Jelena Hrnjak. At the meetings of the group for coordination and cooperation, 51,911 cases of domestic violence were discussed, a quarter more than in 2019. Autonomous Women’s Center data show that 18,648 individual plans for protection and support of victims were developed, which is 42 percent more than in 2019, but still only 72 percent of the total number of reported cases in 2019.

Victims rarely participated in these meetings, only one percent or 194 of them were present, which is half of the number from the previous year - this NGO cited, noting that based on last year's aggregated data, there has been a significant increase in the workload of engaged specialized professionals in the police, prosecutor's office and centers for social work.

At the beginning of this year, Serbia received the first, basic report on the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, and as Autonomous Women’s Center points out, it noted great progress in legislation, but also significant gaps in the implementation of the law, as well as a serious lack of resources, services and finances, which affects the quality of treatment in individual cases.

- All of the above should be the subject of analysis and decision-making of the Council for the Suppression of Domestic Violence, which does not meet and whose reports we have not seen. Victims of domestic violence cannot wait and that is why we demand full implementation of the law and visible effects for the safety and recovery of victims!

Perpetrators go back to their old ways

With the reminder that a stricter Law on Prevention of Domestic Violence has been in force for three years, Vesna Stanojević says that it has given results.

- For several years now, the police have been doing their job well, reacting on time, adhering to the prescribed measures, and all that has given results. The law attracted a lot of attention when it was adopted, particularly in the part proscribing the eviction of perpetrators from the household, but it is no longer mentioned, and perpetrators adhere to the measures until they expire, and then continue go back to their old ways - she pointed out, noting that people in Serbia obviously neither read the laws nor are interested in them.

Coronavirus complications

Jelena Hrnjak commented on the situation that was brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

- Without being tested negative for Covid-19, women could not get away from the perpetrators, which complicated their situation. This speaks of the necessity to have a plan for their protection in an emergency situation - says Hrnjak.

For NGO Atina, text translated by Marija Pantelić

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